Recently my wife and I had dinner with an architect I hired to remodel my house. Over dinner we began a mild political discussion. One of the arguments he made was something you hear a lot. He claimed that labor unions (in the early 20th century) were responsible for raising the wages of the working man and eliminating child labor. According to him unions had raised our living standards.
None of that is true. Capitalism and capitalism alone was responsible for raising wages. When workers began to prosper and make enough money their children no longer had to work. Prior to capitalism many children had to labor or face starvation. In most parts of the world capitalism eliminated starvation. Prosperity and improved living standards came from capital investment, free markets, entrepreneurship, low taxes and minimal government intervention. When labor unions disrupted capitalism they were an impediment to prosperity.
When Henry Ford raised wages to $5.00 a day in 1910 it reverberated around the world. This generous wage scale brought immigrants to Detroit from far and away. The “$5.00 day” stands as a testimony to the wealth creating superiority of capitalism. When labor unions organized the auto industry in the 1930’s it made our car companies less competitive. Unions hurt Ford, Chrysler and GM. When unions demand exorbitant wages and benefits they actually diminish living standards.
A recently published book promotes the idea that government was primarily responsible for the growth and prosperity of the middle class following the Second World War. However, it wasn’t the government that brought us television, jet engines, air conditioning, lasers, computers and the polio vaccine. And it wasn’t capitalism that brought us rising crime rates, failing schools, worsening poverty, high inflation, rising taxes and gasohol.
All anyone needs to do to verify the effectiveness of capitalism is to look around and see the products that improve their life. To appreciate capitalism we can apply the epitaph written on the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren at St. Paul’s church in London where he was the architect. “If you seek his monument look around you.” Lew Rockwell of the Mises Institute summed it up. “The market economy has created unfathomable prosperity and, decade-by-decade, century-by-century, miraculous feats of innovation, production, distribution, and social coordination. To the free market, we owe all material prosperity, all leisure time, our health and longevity, our huge and growing population and nearly everything we call life itself.”
When confronted with these facts about capitalism people who vote for the opponents of capitalism often say, “I’m not against capitalism.” Yet they support those who cripple capitalism with massive government intervention and who milk the capitalists dry with taxes. There is no middle road between a government managed economy and a capitalist economy. There is only less and less capitalism. The people who want to regulate and oversee capitalism have no conception of how much they are damaging capitalism and with it America’s economic greatness and prosperity. The current anti-capitalist trends spell our doom.